Javier Perez

Javier Profile


Javier Perez is a Salvadoran-American poet, teaching artist and Masters student in Sociology at the University of Cape Town. He is co-founder of Swarthmore College’s spoken-word collective OASIS (Our Art Spoken in Soul); a resident poet of the Cape Town-based collective, Lingua Franca Spoken Word Movement; and co-founder of the CYPHER (Cape Youth Poetry Hub for Expression & Rhythm), a youth poetry and mentorship program. Javier's work appears in Badilisha Poetry X-change, New Contrast Literary Journal, and forthcoming in the Lingua Franca Anthology (2017). 

N’oj[1]-ledge of Self


In the beginning, there was the word, they said;
so we came up with
y nos engendramos por la mezcla of remnants and, what was at first, a cacophony of sounds.
Even though they colonized the concept of time,
for us, aging has never been a matter of anatomy or Gregorian calendars:
            both my parents each had more than one birthday: an official one for government
            documents, and an approximately more accurate date of homebirth.
            Likewise, I could have been born in 1990, or 1979, or 1932, or 1625, or 1525, or 1492.
            Our aging is more like a pachanga súper chivo that rhythmatizes the staccato of the clock
     (you don’t know when it began nor when it’ll end, you just dance whilst the gods permit).

Utualmente, Abuelo is turning 100;
I fear as if its too late to play back a beautiful but weathered vinyl.
Before the elegy, though, I wanna sample him into my next poem
make alchemy out of the aporetic.
They tell me I became a poet because of him;
            while he never actually wrote a poem,
            he was known to drop profound lines randomly.
            It was in my blood.
            But I often wonder what else is in there with
            Whose posthumous writings stem from the book spine I carry on my back?
     (the ones that make my etymology feel cuto some days yet undo my atrophies others days). 

They call us Latinos, but I rather be a Remixtino.
On any given day, depending on what void feels biggest, I will pour into myself
reggaeton or cumbia or salsa or hip hop or bachata or mambo or chanchonas or merengue.
I am a montage of santos y nahuales y corridos y historias y idiomas y, mas que todo, silencios.
I study my contradictionaries for a language of self, daily, to write my unknowns into verse
            to relearn how to pray and make my prayers musical.
            But in an age where music is portable for convenient consumption,
            I sit and contemplate one day
            whether to conjure a throwback or play another remix
Ée[2], the American Guanaco.

[1] N’oj is the Mayan Nahual of intelligence and memory. 

[2] Ée is the Mayan Nahual of creative action and travel.


            “Habia una vez”
that’s how my mother would begin her storytelling when i was younger
Habia una vez”
as if time itself was an object left behind somewhere              sort of like seashells)
we tend           to forget
                                      whenever we visit beaches and skip shells across the water
                        that they once were homes to living beings
we tend           to forget
            have a tendency to treat trauma                                              like empty seashells)
many years back,
my grandfather built his family a home
then, civil war broke out
my mother never saw that house again                                                it became a seashell)
in the late 80s,
when the war became too violent
            too many decapitations
            too many missing children
my family immigrated to the u.s.                                            
el salvador                                                                                           became a seashell)
at age 23,
i visited for the first time
a mayan ruin                                                                                        it was the largest seashell
                                                                                                            i had ever seen)
in 1932,
the salvadoran government
massacred 30,000 indigenous citizens
then, systematically erased any pride or memory of indigenous culture
that’s the year                                                                                      we all became seashells)
i have a complicated relationship with the spanish language
it is at once a symbol of pride/a refuge from american racism/a verbal shelter
yet, it is also a colonial language, brethren to english, dutch, french, portuguese, etc…
spanish for me jingles with
            as much kitchen pots and pans
            as it does chains from slave ships
apparently, i did not speak english until i was 5 or 6
i cannot remember ever only speaking spanish
just like i cannot remember ever only speaking nahuatl
i became a poet because i want the world to press its ears to my lips
and hear the ocean i have become deaf to
there are voices in my bones that long to scream, pero no puedo. siempre se me sale sin sonido.
whenever my family visits the beach, my mother loves to walk the sands,
picking up pretty seashells for her collection
i realize, through this poetry, i have also picked up that same habit)

Amaizeing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I (once) was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Amaze A Maze A maze a maze a Maze a Maize a maize maíz maíz amazing AMazeIngles
amazing Maíz amazing grace gracias maíz Mazing mazes amaizing grace mas maíz, gracias

Si! pote            nte                               soy porque siempre como maiz
Because mira que this life is a maze
ing for me, y
Mi lengua harbors trap doors, y
Mi garganta was built with a secret passageway (no me recuerdo donde, but is somewhere), y
te lo digo de experiencia, its too dangerous to walk alone, vos
            (yet too narrow para traer toda la mara, bicho!)
Puro maze,
its by design homie: no way out (carajo…e que me olvido the way in too)
Pero maze can be beautiful, celebramos this identity que es
Puro maize, harvested like a corn field, que no?
we are men of maize, ¡they said!          so you see homie es nuestra onda
What’s wrong with being ‘lost’?
Wanna be ‘found’? Remember the last time you were ‘discovered’?
No’hombre, primo, lose yourself rather.          emptiness is there to feed you.

To offset hunger is rellenar

Y mira, su mamá over there making pupusas
that’s all you, bro
                                    puro technique, art, and physics all gyrating on your mama’s hands
                                                                    the kitchen has always been where our pantheon meets
                                                           not even Martha Stewart could make them, tu sabes
only we know
you first gotta own these veins, chero. you gotta
                                                                                                   the ma(í)ze.


Cumbia: Dancesteppin’ into Footprints

Tonight, we carve maps onto the dancefloor.
with one leg, draw                              transatlantic slave routes
with the other                                     indigenous escape routes.
overlapping the two    makes              indigo
                                    makes            azúcar 
                                   makes              mestizos
Tonigh, ¡bailaremos a la cumbia!
We lettin loose, suelto como Pangaea (pero sin the blackout sirindangas)
I’ll bring drums for my chest
          güiros for my ribs
I’ll sink in sync, so this instinct may never be ext
On this nebulous Saturday night, we gonna re-constellate ourselves!
step so hard, may the ancestors hear us from the basement
press the ground intimate, resculpt it into hacienda
I wanna unearth, unravel
            unbecome a        
guanaco         (Salvadorans may not remember what it means
Pero we say, ¡
GUANACO!     and this body becomes an echo:

i hear its Lenca for a gathering of brotherhood

Entonces pues digo: brotherhood!

                                    Que pedo, loco!?
Lost in translation we be,                                                                      lost in confusion

because we have always been     con     fusión!

always a synthesis of heartbeats                      always:                                      cipotes
                                                                                         , from
                                                  the bastard son of indigenous queen                         
                                                     La Siguanaba and her secret lover
             pobresito Cipote – cursed to remain unwanted permanently…
¡Áchís! ¡No jodás, vos!
¡Oye mi gente! ¡Bring all the cipotes en el barrio!
¡Ayo DJ, dale más cumbia!
we gon' cleanse this original sin con el holy water of our sweat
¡Dale más volume, pa' que nos ponemos galánes! y ¡Bailen, como guanacos!
We célebrating our skins, toníght
oye chelito, oye morenito
            listen to the ritmo. follow these dancesteps. retrace your footsteps
African beat and Indigenous melodies, with                       Spanish language and costume
            Spanish always was just that
                          a costume, un chajazo
                 a slave language shaved into masks to continue this rebellion of my presence
M         first rehearsed as ceremonial courtship ritual
B          the marriaging of two distant lovers
I           the immaculate bridging of two hands locked in dance
A!        the unbroken ceremony of the gods


© The Acentos Review 2016